Tensions can arise as loved ones age and family roles and responsibilities shift. As everyone adapts to these changes, many issues can arise that require discussion. In home care providers recommend several tips for effective communication with older adults.
Listening is the key to good communication. Allow the senior to fully express their thoughts without interrupting.
When differences of opinion arise, be sure to listen fully to all opinions. Make sure to listen to everything the person has to say and avoid disregarding their opinion out of hand. Try to let go of the outcome you are looking for and be open to the input from your loved one, especially if it is about a decision – such as in home care – that will affect them directly. After taking input from everyone, try to come to a decision together that can best accommodate everyone’s priorities and preferences.
Some seniors are sensitive about their inability to hear conversations and fully understand them. Women’s voices in particular, which tend to be at a higher pitch, can be more difficult for seniors to hear and understand. Patiently speak in a calm, clear manner. Keeping sentences short and to the point can be helpful.
Be mindful to make sure that speaking loudly and distinctly does not mean speaking condescendingly or in a patronizing manner. Remember that even if your loved one suffers from memory loss or cannot hear well, they are not a child and should be spoken with the same tone that you would speak to any other adult. Remember that, particularly if the senior you are speaking with is your parent, they are not used getting advice or help from their children, no matter how old you are.
Find the Right Environment
Make sure to avoid background noises or lots of distracting commotion. Look at the person when you are talking to them. Senior in home care experts advise that group conversations can be particularly difficult for seniors who have difficulty hearing, or who use hearing aids. If the senior is in a group, make sure they are at the center of the conversation, not situated at the peripheries.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Seniors have likely experienced significant loss and may be trying to maintain control over whatever aspects of their life they still feel like they have some control over. They may feel like they are giving always their last little bits of control by letting others help. Remembering that one day you will likely be in their place can help to give perspective.
Pick Your Battles
Try not to focus on the little things and avoid drawing battle lines over less important matters so you will have more leverage in truly important matters: issues of health and safety.
Laughter can help dissolve tensions in even the most stressful and difficult situations. Being able to find common humor in a situation can both ease tension and build closeness. Obviously, it is important not to laugh at the person, but be sure they also see the humor in the situation.
Good communication can make everyone’s life easier and can promote good, healthy relationships. Whether it’s discussing difficult medical issues, needing to start in home care services or nursing home care, or simply discussing what to have for dinner, loving, respectful communication is important.